Many years ago, when I was in the midst of my research on contingent academic labor, I was asked to blog about this topic from a scholarly, activist, and personal perspective. At the time, I had been working as an adjunct faculty member for a handful of years and was actively involved in public advocacy. I said no. Not because I didn’t think the issue was important but because I knew my stance on the growing contingency of faculty, and I knew my opinions would not change. A blog, to me, as a reader of several academic blogs, should be something that evolves—in itself and for its readers. The beauty of electronic publishing is that it needs new content about new and changing ideas to remain current.
Enter Strategic Revision. But first I must answer the whys of this act—why me, why here, and why now.
My years as a faculty member and higher education administrator have taught me that we have the tools to meet the challenges that are already facing US higher education, but we are not connecting the dots. When many of us weren’t looking, the nature of the students in our classrooms changed, and the business model our leaders are working with changed. Leaders making the decisions didn’t have the information those of us on the ground had, and those who could see the details did not see from the broader perspective available to leaders. No one was looking at both views, adjusting the lens for the variable perspective necessary to evolve together. Instead, we all fell into various degrees of fear about the dire state of higher education and failed to notice that, if we did not adapt to the growth in first-generation students, those not born in the US, those whose first language is not English, those fears would become a reality. It seemed—and seems—a perfect storm of “we are not ready.”
But we have the tools, and we can adapt—on all sides of the faculty/admin line. We can listen to each other, learn more about the system, change it, show it to students with greater transparency. Here in this space that I am calling Strategic Revision, I will be blogging about the current and future state of U.S. higher education and trying to think through how we get from where we are to where we should be and need to be. I’m doing this because I believe in the system and its possibilities; I believe that knowing the system helps you master it and change it for the better. We don’t need to throw away everything we’ve built in US colleges and universities; we need strategic revision.